JP Morgan is being sued by Ambac for allegedly selling the insurance company hundreds of millions of mortgage back securities while knowingly packing them full of loans they knew were bad. The loans stem from MBS created by Bear Stearns that JP Morgan took control of after they bought the failed bank in 2008. While this might sound like an ailing mortgage insurer trying to pass off blame for buying a financial product that didn’t work out, if we could look inside the lawsuit we’d likely see otherwise.
The problem is the bank, who’s known to have close ties to Obama’s administration, has somehow convinced a judge in the Southern District of New York to seal the complaint. Combing through the legal documents filed before the seal was ordered, we get a glimpse of what has JP Morgan so worried – although because the lawsuit is sealed we still don’t get to see how Ambac can claim these violations of securities laws were started.
Ambac accuses JP Morgan (NYSE:JPM) and the Proposed Individual Defendants of:
(i) “accounting fraud”
(ii) implementing a “bad faith” strategy to reject without justification insurers’ and investors’ demands for the repurchase of breaching loans
(iii) “arbitrarily” denying demands by investors and insurers to repurchase loans
(iv) “manipulating” its accounting reserves
(v) “obscene compensation” and “reckless pursuit of fees”
(vi) “encourag[ing]” the acquisition of defective loans
Talk about accusing them with the kitchen sink of bank fraud. Now here is what I find a weak excuse for why the investors in a publicly traded company (or anyone else who’s interested) shouldn’t be allowed to see this complaint. JP Morgan’s argument is because Abmac was able to get sworn testimony, about how they broke the law, from people working inside the mortgage security packaging division; that this information should be considered a trade secret. On top of that, JP Morgan argues that because ex-employees of these alleged financial criminals are testifying exactly who at the bank told them to skirt the law, this information must be suppressed because it might damage top JPM executives’ reputations.
Sound fishy? This week I went on financial TV journalist Max Keiser’s show to tell his international audience just what JP Morgan was up to. It drew hundreds of comments packed with fans of The Keiser Report screaming this shows just how connected JP Morgan is to a Federal government known to play favorites with American’s bulge banks.
Yet what’s going on behind the scenes is even more alarming. Abmac was able to add testimony to its complaint after I broke news at TheAtlantic.com about Bear Stearns falsifying some of the mortgage details they supplied the raters. You know — to get a better rating so firms like Ambac would buy and insure their mortgage securities. One of the ex-Bear employees quoted in my story, Matt Van Leeuwen, then offered to tell Ambac’s lawyers even more about the misconduct and fraud he witnessed. These Ambac lawyers were also able to see unpublished taped interviews in Nick Verbitsky’s upcoming documentary film ‘The Confidence Game’, which added more clues to who and how Bear Stearns was building RMBS with loans they knew were already in default. But eight days before Van Leeuwen was schedualed to appear in depositions he’d been lawyer’ed up by JP Morgan; claiming because he received a severance when he left the bank they had to represent him. Then according to Van Leeuwen’s deposition transcript, he testified that he’d embellished what he told the documentary film maker in a hour long interview and that some of the information he gave me for my The Atlantic story was taken out of context or only offered on background.
Wow talk about a bait and switch. Of course Verbitsky and I had interviewed other co-workers of Van Leeuwen who corroborated most of his original testimony. So to see him try and swear under oath that he made it up was not only shocking but a clear sign of how influential JP Morgan can be when someone wants to whistleblow. As for Van Leeuwen, he’s suddenly found the funds to attend Law School at the University of Texas; the Ambac lawyers are looking into possible payoffs to get him to change his testimony. They’ve also been granted a court order to get copies of emails from Van Leeuwen and the journalist he gave interviews with in an attempt to prove he lied under oath about not being a willing participant in our stories.
Luckily Van Leeuwen isn’t their only star witness; they have near half a dozen more insiders willing to speak out. Since my story at The Atlantic came out, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission got Verbitsky to show them his unpublished taped insider interviews, including – Van Leeuwen’s, and there is a chance they will subpoena Van Leeuwen to testify.
Ambac lawyers now wait for the good graces of a New York federal judge to let them submit their evidence in an amended complaint. A decision is expected by the end of the year. Although the American public, along with investors in JP Morgan, might be kept in the dark about who did what and how they did it, if a media company doesn’t pay to sue and unseal the case.
The Case is: AMBAC v EMC Mortgage Et Al New York Fed – USDC Southern District of New York – 110508 091754 – 08 CV
EMC was a wholly-owned sub mortgage company of Bear Stearns and is now owned and controlled by JP Morgan.